Giving Tweetbot a More Accessible Design

For many years, I was a diehard Tweetbot user, the popular indie Twitter client for iOS and the Mac. Everything about the app’s design delighted me: I adored the sounds, the way fonts were rendered, and just the way the user interface looked. It was—and remains—a beautiful app. Tapbots, Tweetbot’s developer, does exquisite work. It’s no wonder the app is so beloved.

Somewhere along the way, however, I moved away from Tweetbot and gravitated towards Twitter’s official first-party app. I don’t exactly know why I made the change, but I soon came to realize that the official client is actually well done in its own right. Despite its proclivity for inserting ads and promoted tweets into the timeline, among other annoyances, I can appreciate the niceties the official app offers such as the Search tab, Moments, threaded replies, and—best of all—the dedicated GIF button.

And one other thing: Accessibility.

Many nerds like to shit on the official Twitter app for being an abomination, mainly due to the algorithmic timeline, but the truth is Twitter’s iOS client is worlds better than Tweetbot for accessibility. The UI design is much higher contrast—Twitter for iOS even acknowledges when you have the system’s Increase Contrast setting enabled, as I do. And, crucially, the official client natively supports alt-text, which allows users to append image descriptions for the blind and low vision before tweeting.

I’ve spent the last several weeks back on Tweetbot, because I still have great fondness and respect for it. More to the point, however, I wanted to revisit the app and see how it compares to the official app. I’ve identified a few bullet point enhancements Tapbots that would greatly increase its accessibility. Such as:

  • Higher contrast iconography and support for Increase Contrast
  • Support for adding alt-text to images prior to tweeting
  • And just for fun, add an integrated GIF button

One thing Tweetbot does extremely well, accessibility-wise, is with sounds. The sounds you hear when a new tweet is sent or retweeted or a mention comes in, are helpful audio cues that the action in question occurred. This creates a bimodal sensory experience where someone like me, who has low vision, can see and hear my interactions with the app. The sounds are undoubtedly a nod to Tapbots’ robot-y branding, but in reality they also are an unintentional assistive tool and it’s great.

I have no idea where Tapbots is in development on version 5, but wherever they stand, I hope they consider improving the app for accessibility. It’d make it even more delightful for me (and others) who rely on accessibility to get the most from our apps.